Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Labor’s Child Care Fizzer. Darwin- Palmerston Centre promise to “Investigate” shows Labor’s policy is reckless

“Labor’s very first announcement of a possible site for a child care centre proves how poorly researched their child care policy is,” Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, said today.

“Jenny Macklin’s child care announcement today only promises to “investigate” the possibility of a centre in the Darwin-Palmerston area,” Mr Brough said.

“Labor has had more than a year to determine where and whether child care centres are needed or viable in any particular location, but today they admit they don’t have the basic information necessary to make a decision for just one centre.

“This shows that when Labor cobbled this proposal together they didn’t have the necessary information and the policy was clearly not based on a business case.

“Promising to spend $200 million of taxpayer funds without the necessary research, without understanding the impact on other providers and the parents they assist and without a business case is nothing short of reckless.

“Even though Jenny Macklin has been running around the country claiming wide-spread shortages of child care, she has now admitted that she needs submissions to provide evidence to her whether there is, in fact, a shortage of places.

“Let me help her. Local centres reported between 250 and 300 vacancies on any given work day for this week in Darwin-Palmerston, of which some 80-117 are in the Palmerston region. There are about 130,000 vacancies nationally.

“Notably according to Ms Macklin today, ‘places for 0-2 year olds’ and the ‘need for early childhood education’ are only “preferences” rather than mandatory requirements for any proposed centre.

“Jenny Macklin doesn’t know whether the NT Labor Government will provide free land at a school yet she asks proposers to tell her if there is land available.

“There is no recognition of the important issue of competitive neutrality. Submitters don’t need to indicate whether their proposal will undermine other local community, council or private centres. Nor will submitters have to justify whether they can source qualified staff without poaching them from other providers.

“Labor’s failure to understand competitive neutrality means that the net effect could be the closure of otherwise viable operators, with little or no change to net places, at great expense to taxpayers.

“Ignoring this important consideration is not ‘fiscally conservative’ management.”

Mr Brough said the Howard Government had doubled the number of places nationally for child care and recently provided a $2.1 billion boost to child care to increase and improve subsidies for parents.

“Between the increased Child Care Benefit and the improved Child Care Tax Rebate, the proportion of disposable income required to meet out of pocket child care costs has decreased under the Howard Government.

“Labor’s proposal that all carers be tertiary qualified would clearly increase costs for parents and now we have had it confirmed that a year after a much vaunted policy statement, Labor still don’t have the basic information necessary to justify its policy.

“Not only is this a real risk for parents and other providers but it reinforces Labor’s recklessness with taxpayer funds,” Mr Brough said.